US Anger grows as Puerto Rico misses power restoration deadline

03:41  16 december  2017
03:41  16 december  2017 Source:   Associated Press

Puerto Rico: Thousands wait for roofs

  Puerto Rico: Thousands wait for roofs <p>A dispute over a government contract has slowed efforts to build temporary roofs for people in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico, officials from the US Army Corps of Engineers told CNN.</p>The Army Corps runs a program called "Operation Blue Roof," which provides and installs temporary roofs for people on the Caribbean island that was devastated by Hurricane Maria more than two months ago. Since then, the Army Corps has installed 17,672 roofs in Puerto Rico as part of that program -- only 26% of the 66,906 applications for such roofing help.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers are criticizing local and federal officials as the U.S. territory missed a deadline The situation has sparked a growing number of protests organized by hundreds of neighborhoods that remain in the dark.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers slammed local and federal officials on Friday as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as promised by the island's governor.

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2017 file photo, a brigade from the Electric Power Authority repairs distribution lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in the Cantera community of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers criticized local and federal officials on Friday, dec. 15, 2017, as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as promised by the island's governor. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2017 file photo, a brigade from the Electric Power Authority repairs distribution lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in the Cantera community of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers criticized local and federal officials on Friday, dec. 15, 2017, as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as promised by the island's governor. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers slammed local and federal officials on Friday as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as promised by the island's governor.

Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 62. Actual Deaths May Be 1,052.

  Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 62. Actual Deaths May Be 1,052. <p>Homes were flattened. Power was knocked out. And all across Puerto Rico, bodies began showing up at morgues. Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico with great fury but the government there has reported an official death toll far lower than the devastation suggests.</p>Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico with great fury but the government there has reported an official death toll far lower than the devastation suggests.

Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers slammed local and federal officials on Friday as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as Jose Sanchez, director of Puerto Rico 's power grid restoration program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers slammed local and federal officials on Friday as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as Jose Sanchez, director of Puerto Rico 's power grid restoration program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Puerto Rico is currently at 64 percent power generation nearly three months after Hurricane Maria hit, and the situation has sparked a growing number of protests organized by some of the hundreds of neighborhoods that remain in the dark.

UTIER union president Angel Figueroa said one of the biggest problems is that workers with Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority still don't have the equipment or material to meet the governor's goal.

"We've been forced to recycle materials," he said, adding that residents in the southern mountain town of Villalba recently bought basic supplies for government workers so power could be restored in their neighborhood.

"They used money out of their own pockets," he said.

Nine of Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities remain entirely without power, and thousands of businesses have closed. The lack of electricity and other ongoing problems have sparked an exodus to the U.S. mainland, with more than 130,000 Puerto Ricans fleeing the island.

Puerto Rico: Hurricane death toll climbs to 64

  Puerto Rico: Hurricane death toll climbs to 64 The number of people who died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria has risen to 64, the island's Department of Public Safety said Saturday. The government added two more storm-related deaths to the official total. However, investigations by CNN and other news organizations show the overall number may be much higher. "These deaths that are certified today as indirect deaths related to Hurricane Maria are the result of investigations into cases that have been brought to our consideration," DPS Secretary Hector M. Pesquera said in a news release.

Puerto Rico is currently at 64 percent power generation nearly three months after Hurricane Maria hit, and the situation has sparked a growing number of protests organized by hundreds of neighborhoods that remain in the dark.

Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers slammed local and federal officials on Friday as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as Jose Sanchez, director of Puerto Rico 's power grid restoration program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Jose Sanchez, director of Puerto Rico's power grid restoration program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recently told The Associated Press that efforts to restore power have been delayed in part because supplies are lacking.

"That flow of materials and personnel has to match, and they have to match perfectly," he said. "Unfortunately, I don't think anybody was prepared here in Puerto Rico to address that magnitude of destruction and be able to administer the logistics associated with that."

Sanchez also said that Puerto Rico's mountainous topography poses a big challenge: "It's still a logistical nightmare."

But union leaders criticized private brigades, saying they were taking too long to help restore power and questioning the multimillion dollar contracts they have obtained from the U.S. government.

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was increasing one of two contracts with Texas-based Fluor Corporation from $240 million to $505 million. The amount surpasses a highly criticized $300 million contract awarded to Montana-based Whitefish that Puerto Rico's government scrapped in late October. The small power company based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had only two full-time employees when the storm hit, and the contract is being audited at a local and federal level.

Sanchez said in a statement that the updated contracts with Fluor will help provide more manpower, equipment and technical expertise.

"Our goal is to help (Puerto Rico's power company) return electricity to homes and businesses as quickly as possible, and this additional funding for this contract is a significant step in meeting that goal," he said.

Justo Gonzalez, the power company's interim director, told reporters Friday that he hopes to have at least one region in each of Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities lit up before Christmas.

He spoke just hours before one group of neighbors prepared to march with lanterns near the capital of San Juan to demand electricity.

"They've been patient, but they don't want patience to be confused with complacency," said group spokeswoman Ginette Pales.

Puerto Rico fears economic downturn from new tax overhaul .
The sweeping federal tax rewrite approved Wednesday outraged officials in Puerto Rico, who said it threatens to crush the backbone of the island's economy at a time when they need substantial help recovering from Hurricane Maria.The bill approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate contains a 12.5 percent tax on intangible assets that could affect dozens of U.S. manufacturing companies operating in the U.S. territory. Puerto Rican officials accused some federal legislators of turning their backs after they visited the U.S. territory post-hurricane and pledged their help.

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